Harbinger is the latest work by the Brooklyn-based black metal band, Mutilation Rites. To be perfectly honest, my first play-through of this record had me a little worried. There didn’t seem to be much of anything that stood out about it. In fact, it felt much more muted and bland than the band’s previous work (I am Legion, Devoid and Empyrean). A few more listens helped me sink my teeth into it a little more, and I can appreciate the album as a cohesive work of modern, experimental black metal. There are some moments, some riffs and some arrangements that get the blood pumping, moments of drama that pull you into the band’s dark and mysterious world. There’s a lot of redeeming factors present on Harbinger.
But it still left me a little flat.
On their previous records, especially Empyrean, the band seemed to be taking the sound of modern black metal and infusing it with a very subtle nod to “Entombed-core” bands like Nails, Black Breath and All Pigs Must Die. Empyrean has a lot of similarities with Nothing Violates this Nature in that it throws several different styles together and has a progressive feel that retains the raw edge so many of us look for. They’re kind of like Coffinworm, but with shorter songs and significantly less doom.
But on Harbinger, the raw, dangerous and edgy sound of their previous work has been replaced by a strange mix of Tombs, Gorguts and Blut Aus Nord that leaves the listener with a sort of “ho-hum” feeling. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Drew, those three bands you just mentioned kick ass! And you just gushed over Tombs for their latest album! What the hell?!” Funny enough, the drummer for Mutilation Rites actually played drums on the first Tombs album. But yes, I know all three of those bands are great, but it’s one thing to take cues from them to craft an interesting sound, and another to lay dissonant-sounding riffs over blast beats for song after song.
However, there are some songs on Harbinger that positively rip like “Tactical Means of Ouroboros”, “Gravitational Collapse” and the wonderfully thrashy “Contaminate.” If you give the album some patience (in short supply today, yes I know), there are plenty of times that will get your head banging and I imagine these will be only more electric when played live (check out some of the live footage we have of the band here and here). I was just missing some of the more punky arrangements from their previous work, along with the razor-sharp guitar sound present there as well.
With all of that said – I have a great amount of respect for Mutilation Rites and love the rest of their catalog. This particular album just wasn’t quite for me. But hey, I said that about the first Tombs album and ended up totally changing my mind a couple years later. So who knows what you might think?
Favorite Songs: “Tactical Means of Ouroboros”, “Gravitational Collapse” and “Contaminate.”
When he's not infuriating people with his album reviews, Drew Zalucky is busy writing for his political website, For the Sake of Argument